After a stunning first half performance, Philadelphia Union dig deep in second half to secure a crucially important road win and three points Saturday night. Philadelphia now sits in 5th place of the MLS Eastern Conference standings, aka in the playoff picture.
The Philadelphia Union were shot out of a rocket to start their Saturday night matchup at Gillete Stadium against New England Revolution. Two goals before the 25 minute mark set the tone, but sloppy second half play almost tainted the monumental 3-2 road win.
Throughout the first 10 minutes of the match, Philadelphia’s gameplan was straightforward: press. The top four of Borek Dockal, CJ Sapong, Cory Burke, and Fafa Picault remained active from the opening whistle which forced New England into some conservative play.
New England didn’t handle the early pressure well and Philadelphia sensed opportunity. Several times early, the right-wing was an area of vulnerability for New England’s defense. Sapong, who started at the right-wing position, was a major factor in his team’s early success. Sapong remained highly vigilant with his defensive position, constantly filling in passing lanes and cutting down runners along the right sideline.
Just 14 minutes into the match, Philadelphia converted on the early pressure.
A corner kick opportunity was executed to near perfection. In what looked to be a play designed out on the training grounds in Chester, Dockal slipped a short pass to Haris Medunjanin who hit a hard low cross toward the front post. Jack Elliot popped up in the perfect spot and neatly slid the ball by keeper Matt Turner for the first goal.
Elliot, starting in place of the injured Mark McKenzie, decided one goal wasn’t enough. 10 minutes later he grabbed himself another.
Auston Trusty fired a beautiful aerial ball across the pitch onto the feet of Sapong, streaking down the right-wing. Sapong forced a corner kick as a result. Another short corner was taken but this time Picault found space just a top the box. Picault released a perfect left-footed curling shot that hit the post, bounced, and then was hammered home by Elliot on the goal line. Elliot had himself a brace and all was well.
The remainder of the first half provided Philadelphia fans with more impressive soccer. It’s safe to say New England needed the half-time whistle more than ever.
Less than a minute into the second half, New England returned fire with a goal of their own. Philadelphia was caught sleeping after Andrew Farrell released a blast that found the back of the net. Some nice passing between Teal Bunbury and Cristian Penilla freed Farrell for the shot which left Blake no chance at a save.
After New England’s 46th minute goal, it became apparent Philadelphia would need a third goal to escape with a win. What else was apparent? Blake saves.
New England capitalized on their momentum by increasing the pace of play, which negatively affected Philadelphia. Players like Bedoya and Dockal were quickly rushed off the ball which left other Union players under pressure in dangerous spots on the pitch.
New England continued to pressure Philadelphia until finally they scored once more in the 64’ when Wilfried Zahibo found the back of the net thanks to a deadly free kick delivery from Diego Fagundez.
So now all was tied. With less than 20 minutes to go.
That is until the 75th minute. Philadelphia earned a corner kick which turned advantageous after Antonio Delamea committed a hand ball inside the box. Picault stepped up to take the PK and nailed it home. Philadelphia were up 3-2 and had the lead once more.
Following two conservative substitutions by Jim Curtin, Philadelphia were set to secure victory. Derrick Jones spelled Picault shortly after Warren Creavalle replaced Medunjanin. The defensive reinforcements played well and Philadelphia left New England with a massive win and crucial three points.
They now sit in sole possession of the 5th place in the Eastern conference! If Montreal lose, the Union will hold at 5th place; a Montreal win means the Union will still sit above the red line in 6th place.
– Jack Elliot – Became the first Philadelphia Union defender to score twice in a match. And he was on for an injured Mark McKenzie. Do I smell some competition for that second center back spot?
– CJ Sapong – He started out wide for the first time since June of 2017 during an US Open Cup match against NYRB. Tonight, Sapong looked like he knows how to play that position at highly effective levels and hopefully we will see him positioned there more often.
– Fafa Picault – Picault and his speed were once again on full display Saturday night. But what is more noteworthy are his aerial skills. With Burke, Sapong, and Picault up top all at once, it allows Blake to send long balls with more consistency. However, Philadelphia will be without Picault next match due to accumulating yellow cards.
PHILADELPHIA UNION STARTING XI
Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Jack Elliot, Keegan Rosenberry, Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin (77’ Warren Creavalle), Borek Dockal, Fafa Picault (80’ Derrick Jones), Cory Burke (61’ Fabian Herbers), CJ Sapong
Substitutes: John McCarthy, Fabinho, Richie Marquez, David Accam
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION STARTING XI
Matt Turner, Andrew Farrell, Jalil Anibaba, Teal Bunbury, Diego Fagundez (84’ Brian Wright), Brandon Bye, Juan Aguedelo, Wilfried Zahibo (80’ Kelyn Rowe), Luis Caicedo, Cristian Penilla
Substitutes: Brad Knighton, Christian Machado, Zachary Herivaux, Femi Hollinger-Janzen, Scott Caldwell
GOALS / ASSISTS
14’ PHI – Jack Elliot (Haris Medunjanin, Borek Dockal)
24’ PHI – Jack Elliot
46’ NE – Andrew Farrell (Christian Penilla, Teal Bunbury)
64’ NE – Wilfried Zahibo (Diego Fagundez)
70’ PHI – Fafa Picault (PK)
YELLOW / RED CARDS
57’ PHI – YELLOW – Andre Blake (Time wasting)
63’ PHI – YELLOW – Fafa Picault (Dissent)
75’ NE – YELLOW – Antonio Milnar Delemea (Unsporting behavior)
90+3’ NE – YELLOW – Kelyn Rowe (Dissent)
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports